Anti-war activists are staging protests and direct action outside a major arms fair in Newham, east London.
The Stop The Arms Fair coalition began 12 days of action on Monday against the biannual Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) fair. Despite a large and heavy-handed police presence, activists are determined to stop over 1,700 arms dealers from promoting lethal weapons to an expected 36,000 buyers.
Each day focuses on a different issue—with migration, borders and anti-racism the theme of action on Thursday.
Activists blocked roads while listening to anti-racist seminars hosted by organisations, such as No Borders Manchester.
One protester, who has been camping outside the Excel Centre, told Socialist Worker, “Priti Patel is sending Calais over £50 million to stop migrants from gaining access to Britain.
“At the same time, the Tories remain set on investing in war and the arms trade.
“Britain’s wars are responsible for thousands upon thousands of refugees—we should now be welcoming them.”
Two activists abseiled from a bridge, forcing police to close a busy dual carriageway that leads to the Excel Centre.
Another activist told Socialist Worker, “These brave people are willing to put themselves in danger to stop weapons being used to kill civilians. The scale of the devastation that this arms fair is responsible for is dreadful.
“We need more people here to support these important actions.”
Several organisations back the action, including Campaign Against the Arms Trade, Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Newham Anti-Raids.
On Tuesday Extinction Rebellion activists blockaded the entrances to the Excel Centre.
Amelia Halls, an Extinction Rebellion activist said, “Nothing is as devastating to human lives or to the rest of the living world than violent armed conflict.
“As the climate crisis worsens, it will increase socio-economic crises. Which will lead to more wars, more militarised borders and heavier armed policing to control desperate populations.”
The following day an activist jumped on top of an armoured vehicle, which weapon traders hoped to advertise in the exhibition centre. The activist rallied support around them and chanted, “War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.”
Protesters have erected a peace camp, consisting of approximately 30 to 40 tents.
DSEI’s main theme is ‘Integrated Response to Future Threats’, with surveillance companies and drones on show. Activists warn that British police will use these systems if the repressive police bill becomes law.
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